Sudan protesters rally to challenge state of emergency

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Sudan's President Al-Bashir

SUDANESE police fired tear gas at hundreds of protesters rallying in Khartoum on Monday to ‘challenge’ a state of emergency imposed by President Omar al-Bashir to end anti-government demonstrations, witnesses said.

Deadly demonstrations have rocked Sudan for more than two months, and Bashir on Friday declared a year-long nationwide state of emergency to rein in the campaign against his three-decade rule.

The veteran leader also dissolved Sudan’s federal and provincial governments as part of a major shake-up in his administration.

However, protests have continued, with hundreds of demonstrators in the latest one chanting ‘freedom, peace, justice’, the rallying cry of the campaign, in downtown Khartoum, witnesses said.

Riot police confronted them with tear gas in an attempt to break up the demonstration.

‘We are challenging the regime and we are not scared of the state of emergency,’ said protester Erij, who gave only her first name for security reasons.

‘We have only one aim and that is to make the president step down.’

Protest organisers, an umbrella group called Alliance for Freedom and Change, had called for Monday’s ‘rally to challenge the emergency’.

Defiance

Protests first erupted in the town of Atbara on December 19 against a government decision to triple the price of bread.

They quickly escalated into demonstrations against Bashir’s iron-fisted rule as protesters called on him to step down.

Officials say 31 people have died in protest-related violence since then, while Human Rights Watch has put the death toll at 51.

The 75-year-old leader has remained defiant in the face of protests, but has launched top-level changes in his administration.

He even sacked his long-time ally and first vice-president, Bakri Hassan Saleh.

On Sunday, he swore in a new prime minister and appointed 16 army officers and two officers from the feared National Intelligence and Security Service as governors for Sudan’s 18 provinces.

Sudan’s financial woes have worsened amid a shortage of foreign currency since South Sudan became independent in 2011, taking with it the bulk of oil earnings.

The resulting shortages in basic goods have fuelled spiralling inflation that has devastated the purchasing power and living standards of ordinary Sudanese, from agricultural labourers to middle-class professionals.

 

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